FEATURE: Wylie defensive line ready to build off strong first showing

Coming into Friday’s season opener against against a Brownwood team that had just rushed for almost 300 years in its previous game, first-year Wylie head coach Clay Martin knew that controlling the line of scrimmage would be vital to his team’s hopes of starting 1-0.

But even he had to be surprised by just how thoroughly the Bulldogs accomplished that mission in their 28-7 victory at Gordon Wood Stadium.

Led by a strong effort from its defensive line, WHS limited Brownwood to just 188 yards of total offense, including just 38 yards on the ground, in a dominating performance.

It was quite a start for a front that returned just one starter from last year’s 2-8 squad.

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GAME STORY: De Leon dominates Zephyr in straight sets

By Seth LaRue (special to Big Country Preps)

The De Leon Lady Cats continued to roll through their opposition this week by taking down another district opponent, the Zephyr Lady Bulldogs, in straight sets, 25-14, 25-21, and 25-14. 

“We played a little rough,” De Leon coach Kinsey Garcia said. “It wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go, but we started focusing on serves which helped us a bunch and we maintained our energy which was good and hopefully (we’d) just push more for the next game.” 

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GAME STORY: Clyde sweeps Jim Ned in District 6-3A volleyball tilt

CLYDE — The Clyde volleyball team picked up a big win on Tuesday night at Bulldog Gym, sweeping Jim Ned 25-13, 25-16, 25-16 to take the lead in District 6-3A.

The Lady Bulldogs got off to a quick start in each set, scoring at least the first three points of each one, and trailed for only a single point in the match (5-4 in the second set) as they improved to 13-6 on the year and 3-0 in league play.

Jim Ned, meanwhile, fell to 14-2 and 2-1 with the loss.

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BIG COUNTRY VOLLEYBALL STATISTICAL LEADERS (Through Sept. 28)

Big Country Preps is publishing area volleyball statistical leaders each Tuesday at 7 p.m.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

Teams that send in their statistics after deadline will be added to the lists below as we continually update the database.

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FEATURE: Lightning-quick Benitez is one of Big Country’s top defenders

NOTE: Photos courtesy of Kassi Westerman

Abby Benitez owns all the traits needed to excel at libero.

The Snyder junior is described as fearless and determined by her high school coach. She’s unbelievably quick and a 5-foot-1 ball of energy.   

“She doesn’t like to get beat on anything,” Snyder coach Mindi Bredemeyer said. “She’s definitely not a quitter, she doesn’t have it in her to quit at all.”  

It’s no fluke Benitez is one of the Big Country’s top defenders, averaging an area-best 5.8 digs per set. Her presence is needed even more this year after the Lady Tigers were hit hard by graduation.  

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FEATURE: Bluekatts, Allen grow into district leaders in three years

NOTE: PHOTOS COURTESY OF COLEMANTODAY.COM

Abbi Allen laughs when asked about her initial motivation for joining the fledgling Coleman High School volleyball program three years ago. After all, she had played basketball since age 7 and already was an accomplished player. Why try a new sport you’ve never played?

“If you want to know the truth, if you don’t play volleyball at Coleman in the fall, you have to run cross country. And cross country just isn’t my cup of tea,” said Allen, now a third-year starter for the Coleman Bluekatts volleyball team.

“I always thought volleyball could be fun, and it has been. So that made it like a double bonus.”

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Lingleville’s Juarez takes the award for Week 5

Because six-man football is indeed, a different game than the 11-man variety, it presents a challenge when selecting our Player of the Week.  

The games are different, they therefore, produce numbers that are different. 

However, there are those moments each season when a six-man football player will post statistics that defy description. And it’s during those moments that we reserve our top spot for Class 1A.

Lingleville sophomore spreadback Izrael Juarez is the first to produce one of those moments in 2020, with an astonishing performance in last week’s 70-59 win over Moran.  

Aside for rushing 14 times for 260 yards and five TDs, Juarez hit 9 of 11 passes for 158 yards and an additional six scores.

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FEATURE: Overall team speed has placed Bangs back on the Big Country map

Ethan Sanchez

BANGS — Not since 2013 has the Bangs football team won more than six games in a season. Nor have the Dragons won a single playoff game in that time span. 

But this year’s 4-0 start, which includes a 39-15 win over area power Hawley on Friday, has Dragon fans hopeful that they’re about to see a breakout season. 

The key ingredient to Bangs’ resurgence? Speed — lots of it. More speed than the club has had in years and more speed than many teams are capable of consistently defending against. 

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GAME STORY: Wylie pulls away from Brownwood in Martin’s head coaching debut

BROWNWOOD — Clay Martin’s debut as Wylie’s head football coach couldn’t have gone much better than it did against Brownwood on Friday.

The longtime leader of the Wylie defense under former coach Hugh Sandifer got to watch a dominating performance on that side of the football and, most importantly, got to leave Gordon Wood Stadium with a 28-7 victory in the Bulldogs’ 2020 season opener.

The WHS defense forced five turnovers while limiting the home-standing Lions to 188 yards and no offensive points. And the offense overcame a slow start to control the game and clock as the team pulled away in the second half.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High opens season with loss to Amarillo Tascosa

For 47 minutes, the Abilene High football team went toe-to-toe with Class 5A Division I No. 10 Amarillo Tascosa on Friday night in both teams’ season opener at Shotwell Stadium.

A disastrous final minute of the first half, however, was the difference as the Rebels picked up a 26-20 win over the Eagles, who were being led by interim head coach Jeff Rhoads while Mike Fullen battles cancer.

Tascosa scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 25 seconds of the first half to turn what had been a tie game to that point into a 13-point advantage at halftime.

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BCP GAME OF THE WEEK: Bangs dominates Hawley to stay unbeaten

BANGS — Facing one of the biggest, strongest small-school teams in the area on Friday, there was some question if the Bangs Dragons could remain undefeated after squaring off with Hawley on Friday. 

The Dragons (4-0) delivered the answer fairly quickly, dominating the Bearcats 39-15 in the Big Country Preps Game of the Week. 

Ethan Cortez threw for 238 yards and rushed for 158 and two scores to lead Bangs, which took a 26-7 lead into locker room at the break. Ethan Sanchez led the Dragons in scoring, rushing for 95 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries. 

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District 5-3A Div. II Week 5 Report: Comanche slips past Cisco to improve to 5-0

Comanche 14, Cisco 7 — Logan Wilkerson rushed for 51 yards and two scores to keep the Indians (5-0) unbeaten. 

Comanche built a 14-0 first-half lead and held on for the win.

Hurt by four turnovers, Cisco fell to 2-3.

Hunter Long was the top yardage producer for Cisco, rushing for 128 yards and throwing for 60.

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District 5-4A Div. I Week 5 Report: Rountree, Yellow Jackets get big win over Dumas

Stephenville 46, Dumas 33 — Gavin Rountree passed for 291 yards and four touchdowns and added 81 yards rushing Thursday to help the Yellow Jackets snap a three-game losing streak against the previously unbeaten Demons.

Leading 6-0 after a quarter, SHS (2-3) used a 26-point second quarter to take a 32-12 lead into halftime and held off Dumas (4-1) in the second half.

The Jackets, who open district play next week against Brownwood, also got a big game from standout receiver Trace Morrison, who hauled in four passes for 139 yards and two scores.

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District 4-3A Div. I Week 5 Report: No. 1 Brock runs past Bowie in league opener

Brock 79, Bowie 0 — The top-ranked Eagles opened district play in dominant fashion, outscoring the Jackrabbits 65-0 over the middle two quarters of a blowout win.

Brock, which outgained Bowie 651-111, rushed for 573 of those, led by big games from Cash Jones (7-190, 2 TDs), Kutter Wilson (8-181, 2 TDs) and Chris Palfreeman (3-90, 1 TD rushing; 1-36, 1 TD receiving).

Up next for the Eagles is a home game against Brock on Friday and road date at Whitesboro on Oct. 9.

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District 3-3A Div. I Week 5 Report: Longhorns dominate Grape Creek

Early 36, Grape Creek 0 — Early had an easy time with Grape Creek, limiting the Eagles to just 82 yards in total offense. 

The Longhorns (3-2) led 20-0 at the end of the first half and put the game out of reach with a pair of second-half touchdowns.

Alex Jacobs led Early with 157 yards rushing and two scores on 16 carries. 

Grape Creek fell to 1-4 with the loss.  

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District 8-2A Div. II Week 5 Report: Cross Plains dominates Miles

Cross Plains 41, Miles 12 — The Buffaloes put together one of their most complete performances of the year Friday, outgaining the Bulldogs 372-160 in a thorough victory.

Cason Allen rushed for 173 yards and a touchdown while Cody McWilliams added 163 yards and four scores to fuel Cross Plains, which led 21-0 by halftime.

The Buffs (4-1), who also got an efficient game from quarterback Justin Gresham (5-7-0—93, 1 TD), will have next week off before opening league play Oct. 9 at Hico.

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District 1-4A Div. II Week 5 Report: Holsey, Saddler fuel Mustangs to third straight win

Sweetwater 54, Clyde 10 — Leo Holsey passed for 219 yards and four touchdowns and Kemarion Saddler rushed for 129 yards and two scores to lead the Mustangs to their third consecutive win.

SHS (3-1), which outgained the Bulldogs 494-246, built a 28-10 lead by halftime before putting the game away with a 19-0 run through the third quarter.

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District 4-2A Div. I Week 5 Report: De Leon chalks up first win of the year

De Leon 20, Seymour 19 — Keegan Gilbreath rushed for 207 yards, passed for 180 and accounted for all three Bearcat touchdowns in DHS’ first win of the season. 

De Leon overcame a 13-7 halftime deficit with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to get the win. A botched Seymour PAT in the fourth quarter left the Bearcats in the lead at the final whistle. 

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District 2-4A Div. I Week 5 Report: Lubbock High hand Big Spring first loss

Lubbock High 48, Big Spring 12 — The Westerners dominated both sides of the ball in their season opener Thursday, outgaining BSHS 574-200 in handing the Steers their first loss of the season.

LHS built a 27-0 lead by halftime and answered Big Spring’s first touchdown with 21 unanswered points in the the third quarter to put the game away.

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District 4-3A Div. II Week 5 Report: Buffs force five turnovers, rout TLCA

Stanton 68, San Angelo TLCA 0 — Stanton improved to 2-3 on the year behind 149 yards rushing and three scores from Evan Cox.

The Buffaloes raced out to a 46-0 first-half lead before gearing things down after the break. SHS rushed for 390 yards as a team while limiting TLCA to 161 total yards and eight first downs.

TLCA (0-5) was forced into five turnovers. 

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District 5-2A Div. II Week 5 Report: Roscoe can’t keep up with New Home

New Home 46, Roscoe 12 — The Plowboys’ struggles to begin the season continued Friday when they were outscored 28-6 in the fourth quarter of a 32-point loss to the Leopards.

Roscoe (0-5) trailed New Home 18-0 at halftime and trimmed that to 12 points by the start of the fourth quarter, but the Leopards (4-1) scored the first two touchdowns of the final period to put the game away.

The Plowboys, who have been outscored by a combined score of 227-32 this season, will try to put things together in their final nondistrict game against the Seagraves Eagles (1-4).

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District 3-2A DI Week 5 Report: Stamford rallies behind Holden’s huge night

Stamford 54, Archer City 46 — Zhawn Holden threw for 420 yards and seven touchdowns as the Bulldogs rallied to beat Archer City. 

Holden hit eight different receivers on the night. Ryheem Smith was his favorite target, hauling in six catches for 167 yards and four scores. 

Dylan Faulks caught five Holden deliveries for 146 yards and four three TDs. 

Stamford improved to 3-2 on the year. Archer City fell to 2-2. 

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FEATURE: Jim Ned’s Wishert helping to pave the way for young Indians’ offense

Xavier Wishert

TUSCOLA — Entering the 2020 season with a young set of skill players, the Jim Ned coaching staff was hoping to buy some time for a group fresh faces to mature. 

It was a must if they were to match last season’s 7-4 finish in a difficult district. 

They may have found an answer in junior running back Xavier Wishert — currently averaging 12.9 yards per carry to give the Indians (2-1) a reliable source of yardage.  Entering this week with 453 yards and eight scores on 35 carries, Wishert was on pace for a 1,500-yard, 26-touchdown season before the cancellation of Friday’s home game with Snyder due to COVID.  

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel (Week 5)

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, polls go up on Monday night each week and close Thursday morning.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

Continue reading “Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel (Week 5)”

GAME RECAP: Turnovers doom Cooper in season-opening loss to Permian

ODESSA — The Cooper football team got off to a fast start and finished strong in Friday’s season opener against Odessa Permian, but 21 points off turnovers proved too much to overcome in a 47-35 loss to the Panthers.

After falling behind 14-0 on a pair of Aidan Thompson touchdown passes, Permian used two pick-sixes and a fumble return touchdown to take a 41-21 lead into halftime, before holding off a Cougar rally in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

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FEATURE: Rhoads, Abilene High Eagles navigating tumultuous start to season

It’s been a turbulent year for the Abilene High football program — even by 2020 standards.

Joining all Class 5A and 6A programs in having spring football wiped out and their season threatened and then delayed a month by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eagles got an extra gut punch when it was announced in August that second-year head coach Mike Fullen had been diagnosed with colon cancer and would be taking a leave of absence to seek treatment.

That left co-offensive coordinator Jeff Rhoads in a unique position as the Eagles’ interim head coach and the AHS players in a unique mental state as they tried to balance their excitement for an upcoming season with concern for their beloved coach.

Following a successful surgery and a positive response to chemotherapy, Fullen is convinced he’ll be back on the sideline in weeks, not months. But regardless of when he returns, both Rhoads and the Eagles players are determined to do their part to ensure that he finds the program in the same state he left it, if not better.

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FEATURE: Wylie offensive line looking to take big step forward in 2020

Few positions in sports are as important as an offensive line is to a football team.

If you can control the line of scrimmage, everything else gets easier. And if you can’t, well, the opposite is true.

In recent years, the Wylie football program has experienced both of these extremes. In 2016, a strong offensive line unit led by current Abilene Christian University senior Kade Parmelly helped the Bulldogs to a 12-1 record and their fourth state championship game appearance in school history. Just two years later, though, in WHS’ first year as a Class 5A program, struggles up front contributed in large part to a rough 0-10 campaign — a trend that continued last season as the ‘Dogs struggled to a 2-8 record.

Taking over for his longtime boss Hugh Sandifer, who retired in January after 41 years at Wylie, first-year WHS head coach Clay Martin is determined to get that turned back around. And with a healthy O-line group that features two returning starters and good crop of junior varsity call-ups, he feels the pieces are in place to accomplish that.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS GAME OF THE WEEK: Hawley tangles with upstart Dragons (w/ Evan Ren’s Big Country picks)

LAST WEEK: 36-12, .750
SEASON TOTAL: 152-47, .763

I have not been to Bangs for a Game of the Week since 2013 — the last time the Dragons posted more than six wins in a season and the last winning record they had prior to last year’s 6-5 mark.

That drought ends tomorrow, when I travel to BHS for an interesting showdown between the Dragons (3-0) and Class 2A Division I power Hawley (3-1).

Bangs has the better overall numbers, but Hawley has faced a slightly tougher overall schedule, making this pick a perplexing one.

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FEATURE: Cooper QB Thompson taking nothing for granted in senior season

As a third-year starting quarterback, Cooper senior Aidan Thompson has played a lot of football. With four offers to play collegiately, he has more to look forward to.

But after having his final high school campaign threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cooper standout isn’t thinking about his future or the past. The present is all that matters.

When the Cougars kick off their season Thursday at Odessa Permian, Thompson will begin a senior campaign he wasn’t even sure he was going to get. And his only priority now is making the most of whatever time he has left with his CHS coaches and teammates.

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GAME STORY: Bangs rallies to top rival Early in five sets

The Bangs Lady Dragons narrowly defeat the Early Lady Horns on Tuesday as the local rivalry ignited for the first time this season. 

The Lady Dragons notch their second district win, 23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16, 15-5 in a late comeback.

 “I am so proud of the girls, they got stuck in the third set, down by eight points and they fought, coming within two points of the win,” Bangs coach Cheyanne Lovelady said. “It just impresses me to see a team that doesn’t fold when competition gets heated.”

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GAME STORY: Senior-led Cooper volleyball team sweeps rival Abilene High

 The senior-laden Cooper volleyball team showed its maturity Tuesday, sweeping crosstown rival Abilene High on its home floor to stay perfect at 4-0.

The Lady Cougars, who have yet to drop a set this season, got off a to a dominant start, winning Game 1 by a 25-9 margin before grinding out a couple of 25-23 wins in the final two games to close out the match in three.

After being overwhelmed in the early going, the much younger Lady Eagles (1-3) rebounded to challenge CHS, but each time the Lady Coogs needed a point, they got it — a trend coach Nora Campbell attributed to her team’s experience.

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FEATURE: Stephenville’s Matthews has worked her way into being one of the area’s top players

From the moment she showed up at Stephenville last year, Jaylee Matthews hasn’t shied away from putting in work.

As a then-sophomore moving from Seminole, Matthews knew the Honeybees’ program was steeped in tradition. Floor time would be earned, not given.   

“I showed up every day and worked hard to prove myself,” Matthews recalled. “I would say I fit in pretty good with the team now, and these girls have become some of my best friends.”  

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FEATURE: From a novice to a natural: Clyde’s Underwood never comes off the volleyball court

Photos by Stan West, Rachel Laughlin and Toni Brockway

Liz Underwood was focused on basketball as a sixth-grader at Clyde. That is, until new Clyde High School volleyball coach Laura Carr asked her to join a traveling club team.

“She wanted to play on a traveling volleyball team with girls in the grade above me,” Underwood said. “She said she needed a middle blocker. I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t even know what a middle blocker is.’ But she’s the coach, and she asked me so I said, ‘Yes.’ ”

At her first practice, Underwood realized that volleyball was truly a team sport in which players relied on each other’s skills.

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BIG COUNTRY VOLLEYBALL STATISTICAL LEADERS (through Sept. 21)

Big Country Preps is publishing area volleyball statistical leaders each Tuesday at 7 p.m.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

Teams that send in their statistics after deadline will be added to the lists below as we continually update the database.

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